The olive tree has been the foundation of the economy of many nations. It is the foundation of Palestine as well. The olive tree has meaning beyond economic value and quite often is the reason of conflict between Palestine and Israel.
The harvest of the olives is the top priority of the Palestinian society and this period for the most part is filled with fear, because of the attacks on olive orchards by Israeli settlers, to sabotage the harvest. The joy of the Palestinians during harvest time is accompanied with fear, because the Israeli government is trying to prevent them from getting in to their fields.
During the harvest season, settlers who reside near olive orchards owned by Palestinians, are very busy trying to make everything difficult. Once an extremist association ordered the settlers to attack the Palestinian farmers and cut down their olive trees to minimize the production of olives and olive oil.
The West Bank is called Judea and Samaria and the settlers have the right to use the land.
Tayseer Al-Tamimi, a Palestinian Supreme judge, urged the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) to put a stop to the distroyance of the agricultural land of Palestine and asked from the organization for protection of the olive trees.
In the occupied Palestinian territories, the Israeli military and settlers are distroying an olive tree a minute according to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. From 1987 until today about one million olive trees have been destroyed. The excuse given by the Israelis, was that the Palestinians were using them for cover.
Over 22 square kilometers have been destroyed since the Oslo Agreement. The Israeli explanation this time is, because of the constraction of the road “in the service for peace.” Every so often reports are that the Israelis burn the olive trees or spray them with chemicals to destroy them.
Official statistics say that over 40 square kilometers have been effected this way. Most of the attacks have been happening near the towns of Nablus and Ramallah. In the first months of 2007, over 11,000 trees were burned by the Israeli settlers, according to a report from the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and the Israeli Civil Administration shows 1,850 trees were destroyed during the first 6 months of 2007. The Palestinians argue this and claim that many attacks happened that went unreported.
The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture reports that 11 million olive trees were planted in 2007 which cover 45% of the total cultivated Palestinian land (over 900 square kilometers). Only about 25 square kilometers are irrigated in the Southern Country and the Jordan Valley. The West Bank is covered by 50% with olive trees (about 10 million of them).
Olives and olive oil are the main source of income for over 10,000 families, producing over 150,000 tons of olives and 35,000 tons of olive oil. The 30% of the production is consumed loccaly.